T Nation

Making Progress in Muscle Gains

Hello everyone, I am back and Happy New Year! So, I have been wondering recently as to whether or not it is true that when trying to make significant or practical gains in muscle size and strength you should constantly be progressing in your workouts and exercises every week e.g. an extra couple of reps on your bench press or even adding 5% extra weight to your bench press and completing the same reps as you did previously with a lighter weight?

Yes and no. You need to become stronger over time - but if it takes a few weeks to break your own record again that’s also acceptable. Beginners can usually lift more weight each time they hit the gym - the more advanced you become, the more this will slow down. It’s the same as all learning curves, really.

okay well then here is what I don’t totally get. I remember when I did squats 6 months ago I started out with 95 lbs. with 4 sets of 12 reps and it took me 6 weeks to be able to increase the weight by 10 lbs. Every time I did them I would always do them with an almost full ROM like doing deep squats and I would each rep slowly (for each rep it would be 2 sec. down, then 2 sec. up). In addition, I was still at the beginner’s level in terms of my experience and gains in muscular strength/size gains. So does that mean that I should have I change the exercise back then or what?

Maybe trust is important. It is easy to cheat on form to do more reps or add more load. Sometimes doing less is better it means you are more strict/cheat less.
If you think you are training too frequently for your recovery capacity you might rest more, eat cleaner, reduce life stress or really monitor your log and switch your training to allow more recovery time.
Maybe just 4-5 days off would be in order. Timing your rests between sets, keeping the exercises order will permit you to really evaluate your progress. Stalling might be a time to switch stimulus, new exercises, slower tempo, etc,

For many beginners the initial strength gain is attributed to CNS adaptation. Your antagonistic muscles will fire less over time allowing your agonist muscles to porduce froce more effectively. But that’s strength gain. Strength doesn’t ALWAYS mean muscle.

For example, some studies (which eventually lead to the HST training principles) say that you can make some pretty impressive muscle gain by lifting below your max and short of failure. I believe Prof X once wrote that it would be pretty stupid to ignore the amount of work your muscle does on the “ramping” sets before you get to your one final all-out set. However this isn’t really a great way to build strength.

Bottom line: whether you are training for strength or size (or both) you must progress in order to create some sort of adaptation. Why would your body want to build more muscle if it doesn’t need to? The reason the HST program I spoke about above worked is that there was STILL a progression despite working below your max.

Now as far as your squatting is concerned, it would be pretty nieve to think that everything your did on one squat day is the same as you previous squat day. Ex: Monday you squat 5x5x245 and your are totally gassed. Next monday you squat 5x5x240 and are completely gassed as well. Did you necessarily become weaker? No. Maybe you didn’t sleep as well, maybe you didn’t eat as well, you endochrine system could be out of wack etc,etc. This is one of the principles of CT’s “perfect rep” articles.

So as far as adding weight to the bar and making progression it relies on: confidence, comfort, self efficacy and a whole slew of physiological reasons. In my opinion if you can’t add weight to the bar, grind out another rep. If you can’t grind another rep, try resting less in between sets. Any progress is good progress.

Note: I’m aware that there are a lot of conflicting arguments in this response but it is still a highly debated topic.

If your squating 95lbs, stop over thinking things, find a basic program you like and stick to it for a year, ( strong lifts.com, or 531 ) unless somthing is causing you pain, from past injury, don’t question the program just follow it. To many weak guys over thinking shit and trying to reivent the wheel, My guys don’t get to have any say on program design, till 1000lb total, the internet is great, but it’s to much info for newbs, sometimes, Sorry to rip on ya, but I see this all the time in the gym, skinny guy telling me, the fiber type and break down of a muscle, quoteing some study, if you want to get big, LIFT BIG–EAT BIG–SLEEP BIG–REPEAT goodluck